Censorship?

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This country never ceases to amaze… Thanks to nymphee the Gušti Affair caught my attention.

To summarise: Disctric Court in Ljubljana ordered Gušti and SiOL to take down a post where Gušti shared his impression and encouters with Ana Jud. She was rather displeased with the contents of the post and filed a suit against Gušti and SiOL. A part of the suit was also a motion to temporarily take down the post until the issue has been resolved. In Slovene legal terminology this is called začasna odredba, something like a temporary order

A temporary orded is a legal instrument which can be filed by the plaintiff in order to prevent any (further) damage that might occur in the period between his/her filing of the suit and the final rulling of the court. In this case Ana Jud apparently claims that the contents of the post amounted to slandering and sued the man.

While Pengovsky is not a lawyer he is rather familiar with the Law on media and the judicial practice on slander-cases. Now, Ana Jud’s motives are questionable at best and the contents the post in question are in my opinion quite harmless, but the case raises several interesting questions:

1.) Is there a difference between a blog post and one’s private personal opinion?
2.) Can a blog be treated as a media?
3.) Is the owner of a blog responsible for its contents?
4.) Is the owner of the server (or blogging service) responsible for any and all blog contents is services?
5.) Does this temporary order amout to censorship?

The Law on Media does indeed regulate web publications or web media. While inherently different fromy “traditional” media, the web media must conform to the same rules and procedures as any other media. I.e.: They must be registered with Ministry of Culture, which includes an appointed Editor-in-Chief. But what about a blog? Is blog a mass-media?

In a way – yes. It is intended to be read by other people. It is in fact no different than a book, a newspaper, a magazine, a radio or television.

But in a way – no. It is not a mass-media product as such. It is not distributed, it does not have an editor-in-chief as the owner is ussually (but not always) the sole writer, it does not necesarily publish regurarly, the author’s identity is not necesarily known, et cetera… From this perspective a blog is much more like a book than a newspaper. The closest analogy is of course some sort of public “personal diary” – which is also a book. And some diaries even get published.

Thus, we’ve shown that a blog (singular) is exempt from the Law on Media, because it lacks features that media in Slovenia must have to call themselves media – the most notable of all being that a blog is not registered with the Ministry of Culture.

The story is somewhat different for the blogging service provider (in this case SiOL). This particular provider runs a variety of other services as well and IS registered with Ministry of Culture. As far as I know, SiOL blogging service even has an editor-in-chief which means that Marko Crnkovič is in not-so-shallow doo-doo as he is legally responsible for any and all content of SiOL blogs.

Thus we have answerd items number 1, 2 and 4. A blog post is not strictly one’s private opinion, but one’s private opinion which has been made public. But while a blogging service must conform to Law on Media, an individual blog needn’t.

Now: is the owner of the blog responsible for its contents? In short: yes. Everyone is (except under-aged persons) is fully responsible for opinions they make public. If I were to go to a park, take a lung-full of air and started yelling that Ana Jud is a pompous bitch who doesn’t know her mouth from her cunt it would be the same as if I posted that very same sentence. Either way I made my opinion public and must take responsibility for it. It can be considered slander unless I can prove otherwise in a court of law, should she make the mistake of sueing me. Item number 3 is thus dully aswered

But the real question is: does this amount to censorship? No. Not from a legal point of view, at least. This is a classic case of one person’s freedom of speech clashing with another person’s right to personal integrity. Again – I’m not saying that Ana Jud actually has a case. But neither is the court saying that. What the court did was just temporarily suspend the publishing of this particular blog entry until the matter has been resolved. And should it emerge that Ana Jud acted in bad faith, Gušti and SiOL will definitely have a case agains her.

Censorship is by definition imposed by the same entity which feels threatned by a certain content. Thus – were Ana Jud by any chance SiOL’s editor in chief and had she forced Gušti to take down the post, that would be censorship. But the court’s decision is (again) temporary and was delivered (presumably) upon due consideration. One must know that in a civil suit the burden of proof lies with the defendant (and not with the accuser) so in court’s view Ana Jud’s claims have merit thusfar.

And one more thing: One of the earliest issues of Direkt ran a story about Dora Plestenjak supposedly molesting her grandchild. The Plestenjak family did exactly the same as Ana Jud did – they filed a motion for a temporary order, preventing most copies of that particular issue ever reaching the stands, and then filed suit against Bojan Požar and Direkt.

The lesson: While blogs are created by private citizens, they can have public consequences and are not exempt from the law. It is just sickening that an excellent musician ends up at the wrong end of stick held by a below average would-be reporter.

Policija trenira strogoću….

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…perhaps best translated as LJPD Blue in action. The entire gallery by Dnevnik daily is located here


To those who have been on this Earth long enough to have at least heard of the student movement in former Yugoslavia and the continuos battles and hide-and-seek games between (mostly) students and the fearsome socialist police, the above title of the song by Leteći Odred will sound familiar.

This time around, there is a twist, though. The po-lice used force against the majority population of Ambrus and Ivančna Gorica (remember this post?). As the Strojan family (the Roma) tried yet again in vain to return to their land in Ambrus near Ivančna Gorica, the local populace gathered yet agaiin to prevent that from happening. They set up roadblocks and baricades, forcing the police to intervene. Soon the special police forces were deployed (the so called Robocops) and as things grew tense an order was given by Chief of Ljubljana Police Authority Branko Slak to disperse the crowd which by now had reached hundreds of people.

Punches flew and a person apparently took two blows with a baton in the head (the bald man with a bloody head in Dnevnik’s pictures) and another woman injured her arm.

As I wrote some time ago, the State (the govenrment if you will) is the only institution authorised to use force and only when law and order are disturbed. Not only that law and order were disturbed in Ivančna Gorica, they were down right mutilated, trampped upon, spat at and humiliated. On top of that the minority population was denied due process, denied freedom of movement and evicted (to name but a few human rights violations) thus bringing about the inevitable violation of the rule of law.

The people of Ivančna Gorica took the law into their own hands, so naturally the law took them into its hands. The law in this case being the cops who should have in my opinion beat the shit out of the protesters, not just sprain a wrist and schratch a bald head.

Had the law used all its powers then people would get arrested, severely beaten, questioned, tried and sentenced for violating countless counts of law. Not only that – the actions of the police in Ivančna Gorica on Saturday night was highly disproportionate to its own actions on November 17th, when a pro-Roma rally took place in downtown Ljubljana, where two people were arrested and later released. One of them was Marko Brecelj from Koper, a songwriter and an alternative rock musician (think band Buldožer) who also wrote the legendary song Parada (Parade). That particular protest was peaceful – the protesters were on vallium compared to the Saturday’s events, and yet two people were arrested. On Saturday noone was arrested, two people were hurt in a clash with the cops and another man took a kick in the groin. What Ivančna Gorica needs right now is a bit of police brutality – the kind one sees at footbal matches, so the people would bug out and go home, rahter than get drunk on weekends and have a party WHILE “defenfing” their Vaterland

I agree with Pavle Čelik (the former Top Cop): the po-lice should have kicked some ass the first time around. Now the local populace feels emboldened by the fact that not only they drove out the Roma, even the police can’t really touch them. If it does, heads roll. The first head to roll off the stage was the already mentioned Chief of Police Authority Ljubljana Branko Slak, who allegedly failed to follow protocol and gave the orded to disperse the crowd without ordering the people to disperse over the megaphone and warning them of immediate police action. I doubt that it would have helped, but if he really failed to follow proper procedues, reprimand him. Don’t destroy a man’s career a month before his retirement. But he was removed by Jože Romšek (the current Top Cop) to head the Slovene version of Police Academy, while a new guy is coming to take over for Slak. And while this new guy gets his bearings the fascists in Ivančna Gorica will do as they please.

Seeing Janša in today’s Odmevi on state television I was amazed to see him actually talk some sense. What he obviously failed to realise is that moving the Strojan family was the catalyst for this sad saga as people suddenly felt that they can get whatever they want, all they have to do is to take it one step further than the othe guy. At this stage this already means killing somebody. And that will be blood on Janša’s hands, as he has played an an active role in anti-Roma protests in 2004 (unfotunately the article from Delo daily is in Slovene only and yes, I know I’m infringing copyright).
Janša is right on one thing, thouhg: This thing has gotten out of controll. When roumor spread that the Strojan family will relocate to Kočevje, the mayor of the municipality went on the local radio an allegedly called people to the baricades. “Alegedly” because I can’t even find Radio Univox on the net. But knowing as I do the Roma situation in Kočevje this call to arms seems quite probable. The fun part is that the mayor Janko Veber (who is also a deputy in the parliament) belongs to opposition Social Democrats. This only proves that stupid people are thick on the ground in Slovenia and are not confined exclusively to the political right.


Oh, and my favourite statement this time around… A redneck who was handled roughly by a cop was shocked that the cop didn’t speak Slovene. Supposedly the cop said to him “Najebat ćeš” – which is “you’ll get fucked for this” in Croatian. Or Serbian. Or anything else – point is that it wasn’t Slovene…. Don’t you get it?! We’re being infested by all these foreigners who came to steal our identity and our way of life, the Gypsies , the faggots, the goddamn Jews….Eeeek….


Borat, this country needs you!!!!!

The Abortion of Minister Drobnič

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the soon-to-be-aborted Minister


As of yesterday it became clear that Janez Drobnič, Minister for Labour, Family and Social Affairs is about to lose his job. He was a controversial figure from the very beginning, when Prime Minister Janez Janša was forced to nominate him to the post. Namely, one of the junior coalition parties, Nova Slovenija (New Slovenia or NSi), a deeply conservative and pro-Catholic party made it clear that a) it wants to control the said Ministry and b) that Drobnič should have the job.


Now, this ministry is a curious thing: It is one of the most influential and one the most volitale departements of every administration. It is in charge of more than 25% of Slovenia’s yearly budget. In 2007 that translates as SIT 500 billion (€ 2,2 bilion), making it second only to the Ministry of Finance.


One of the basic functions of the minister and his team is to conduct the so-called “social dialogue” – yearly negotiations between the government, unions and employers. The expected result is an agreement on wages which should follow the rising costs of living (what the unions want), not hamper the growth of the businesess (what the employers want) and have an overall positive effect on the growth of Slovene GDP and the country’s competitivenes while preserving the relatively high level of social security (what the government wants, although the final point is open for debate and depends mainly on the ideological perusasion of any given administration).


Janez Drobnič, the soon to be ex-minister, failed badly on most counts. I will not go into the details of his failed policies, but let me just remind everybody that under his tenure Slovenia faced the first general strike which brought together the ever-split unions, pensioners and students. He failed to conduct any form of social dialogue, but the straw that broke the camel’s back came from the third field of his duties: Family. A litlle more than a week ago he proposed a National Strategy on Raising the Birth Rate which – among other things – proposed charging women for abortion (thus making it accessible only to those who are really well off and who are less likely to have more than one child in the first place) and making pensions depentant on the number of children a person has given birth to (or fathered) until his or her pension.

Especially the former caused an uproar, athough Pengovsky is of opinion that the latter is a much more dangerous proposition.


But as there were and still will be enough posts on the issue, I thought I’d post something about how this all plays out:

PM Janša on Thursday asked Minister Drobnič to resign his post. Upon due consideration Drobnič refused. The move was not a complete surprise but it was a bold move given the power and authority Janez Janša has gained in the past two years. This put Janša in a bit of an akward position: Drobnič called his bluff and Janša was now faced with two options: Either he proposed Drobnič’s dismissal to the parliament or he could’ve waited until January 2007 when a vote of confidence in Drobnič was scheduled due to a move by Slovene National Party.

A quick sidenote for the uninitiated: Slovenia sports a parliamentary democracy with strong elements of “assembly system”: in practice this means that the ministers are approved and dismissed by the parliament rather that by the PM himself. It also somewhat diminishes the powers of the prime minister as his ministers are responsible both to him and to the Parliament. Thus any change in the government has to be approved by the Parliament, making it theoretically possible that the parliament refuses the change proposed by the PM, forcing him to “live” with the unwanted minister.

Anyways: Janša chose the quick and the hard way (proposing the dimissal to the parliament), putting Drobnič’s party NSi into an unfortunate position: If they vote in favour of the dismissal they stabbed their man in the back (a trait not at all appreciated among the party faithful) but if they vote against the proposition they failed the PM and the so-called “coalition agreement”, thus stabbing the PM (and the rest of their coalition partners) in the back.

While it is unlikely that Drobnič will keep his post it is quite possible that NSi will want some sort of retribution for this political ambush (or, to put in terms of Slovene politics – an assisted suicide) and one could not put it past them if they supported the dismissal of Minister for Culture Vasko Simoniti – but that would be a grave breach of coalition agreement and the consequences could be serious – at least with this prime minister. One way to avoid any serious backlash is for Janša to up the stakes even further and make the vote on Drobnič’s dismissal also a vote of confidence in his administration. Thus he would make any renegade deupty from NSi fall back in line and on the other hand he would silence the opposition which would – in a perverce twist of events – by voting for Drobnič’s dismissal also vote in support of Janša’s administration. Usually the opposition (especially the liberal democrats – LDS) would rather gnaw their leg off than do anything that remotely resembles supporting Janša, but they may have no choice.


But then again – Janša might choose not to up the stakes and just weather the storm. In any case it will be fun to watch Drobnič being aborted.


UPDATE: Nsi, Drobnič’s party has decided to support the minister and demanded a top-level meeting between coalition partners – second in less than a week. While this does not mean that party’s deputies will actually vote in favour of the Minister, it is a move in that direction. Janša is up for a bad weekend.

Endlösung

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“Anti-Gypsy” wall somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Slovenia is saying: “I have to get me one of those!”


Contrary to popular belief Slovenia was never a text-book example of ethnical or religious tolerance. Or any other kind of tolerance for that matter. Kind of hard to be tolerant when 90 percent of population is of Slovene ethnicity (there is a huge difference between ethnicity and nationality, as will be shown shortly) and when on average 75% of people are of Catholic faith (the number depends on wethwer Slovenia has a left-wing or a right-wing government) thus leaving very little room for other ethnicites and religions to develop and maintain their identity.

In mid-nineties a very interesting study was published which found that almost two thirds of Slovenes thought of themselves as tolerant. The same study, however, showed that more than 55,7% of Slovenes were intolerant towards the Serbs, almost 42% felt the same way about Croats and some 36% couldn’t stand the sight of Roma (commonly known as the Gypsies).
And that’s just intolerance in general…

When asked “who would you not like to have as your next-door neighbour”, almost 38 percent said they wouldn’t like to have a drug addict as their neighbour, 31 percent felt the same way about a homosexual person, 17 percent about Roma person, et cetera… Almost 9 percent of people would hate to have a Jew as their neighbour! (according to 1991 census 199 people declared themselves of Jewsih faith, and only 99 in 2002 – less than 0,1 of entire population of Slovenia!!!; source)

These numebrs had of course changed by 2006, at least as the anti-Serb sentimet is concerned, as it was fueled by the historical proximity of Slovene fight for independence and the attrocities commited by the Milošević regime in ex-Yugoslavia at the time. But the level of intolerance has not changed significantly, that – I’m sure of. The intolerance just refocused on other minorities.


In real life the religious intolerance is best seen by fierce opposition of Slovenes and a good proportion of their elected representatives to erecting a mosque in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. The Firm(tm) has a relatively good archive on the issue (although it is slightly outdated now). But for an objective look on the issue, check out this story by the Beebs.


But the most recent example of not-so-well-hidden intolerance are the latest incidents in the municipality of Ivančna Gorica, some 20 kilometres outside Ljubljana, where a Roma family was evicted by the local majority population (i.e. Slovenes). Check out the story by the Int’l Herald Tribune for an impartial report.

The last paragraph of the said article is particularly telling: “There is a huge sense of relief,” said Sinkovec, the village president. “We have nothing against them. We just think they should be found somewhere else to live.”


It is the embodiment of the begginig of this post. Slovenes don’t think of ourselves as intolerant. We just don’t want anybody who’s different in any way to be living near us.


Now, the usual argument is that outsiders like me cannot know how it is like in Ivančna Gorica. EEEEERRRRR!!!! WRONG!!!! We sure as hell know! Almost every apartement building in Ljubljana – and I’m sure it goes for other cities as well – has at least one person whose only purpose in life seems to be to make life sheer hell for everyone in that particular building. But hey! We have to live with it? What am I suppose to do if Mr. V. from third floor pumps his turbofolk music way over the medically acceptable level at noon on Sundays? Should I knock down his door, light a bonfire in his living room and tell him to get the fuck out and never come back? I can’t really, can I? So I have to learn to live with it. And so should the people of Ivančna Gorica. That’s what being tolerant is all about.

Of course noone is asking them to tolerate crime, but as shown above this situation has grown beyong security and enviromental issues. Now, a person in guilty and a persona non grata simply because he/she is of Roma ethnicity. Which brings us to the next interesting question:

Ethnicity vs. Nationality

The Roma family is obvisously of Roma ethnicity. But they are Slovene nationals. How in the world is possible that this government refrains from using force when one or more of its citizens are in danger and are being denied basic human rights? The “us” vs. “them” dillema is artificial, as is artificial the notion than Slovenes are purely caucaisan Chatolics. But this is what drives the current anti-Roma sentiment – that they are not one of “us” and should be therefore removed.

But they are one of us. They deserve the same priviliges and are subject to the same duties as any other Slovene national. Should they happen to avoide those duties, the State is the only institution which can punish them. No one else. That’s why the instrument of due procress wasn developed: so that everyone would get the same treatment in front of any court. It seems however that the Roma are second-class citizens, who were stripped of most of their human rights, and – in the case of Roma family in Ivančna Gorica – of their land as well. Sounds much like they did it in Nazi Germany or during the period of hardcore communism in Slovenia – shortly after WWII.

Today, it’s the Roma. Tomorrow it will be Bosnias. Next – the atheists. Then the left wingers and liberals. Endlösung – the final solution to purge this country of any and all unwanted elements. The people of Ivančna Gorica might not see it that way and could very well be shocked by the notion of being compared to the Nazis. But that is what they’re doing. That is what this nation is capable of.


P.S.: I will undoubtedly have the sad opportunity to write some more on this issue. There are scores of issues this post doesn’t cover: The idleness of government(s) during the past three decades. The dissolution of the rule of law. The role of the current prime minister in fueling the anti-Roma sentiment two years ago, and so on – ad nauseam, I’m afraid. But fear not! Come Monday, there will be meat galore, yet again 🙂

P.P.S.: Why in English? I could say that this way more people will understand this post, but the truth is that Michael was bitching about my posts being all in Slovene so I want to give him a break – at least as long as Poulette doesn’t nail me to the cross for my terrible English 🙂